Monday, February 14, 2011

Les Fran├žais n'aiment pas les chats

Robert Darnton's groundbreaking exploration of 18th century French cultural history has the revealing title "The Great Cat Massacre". If something is not worth making a big deal of to a French person, il n'y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat -- it's not worth whipping a cat over it. Where you or I have other fish to fry, Henri or Gaston have d'autres chats a fouetter (other cats to whip).

What should one think of a culture that enshrines the practice of cat-whipping in the everyday idioms of the language? To answer this question, I will be travelling to the City of Light in mid-March, where I will immerse myself in the splendor of the French language for 14 weeks. I will return to San Francisco in late June.

"Whipping Cats" is intended to be the French version of "Mainly on the Plain". Watch this space.